The Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) of Jefferson County, which offers mediation sessions that aim to provide non-adversarial alternative to litigation or jury trial, is accepting applications for its volunteer mediation training.
According to the DRC's website, mediation is a problem-solving negotiation process in which people in a dispute meet with trained mediators to reach a mutually accepted solution.
DRC Executive Director Kara Hawthorn told the SE Texas Record that those interested in qualifying to serve as a mediator are required to complete 40 hours of mediation training.
“Our center at the Jefferson County Court House provides the training for our volunteers,” Hawthorn said. “Jefferson County has a mediation center called the Dispute Resolution Center and we provide mediation at low cost for citizens of Southeast Texas, not just Jefferson County.”
Hawthorn said people who come to the DRC are looking to solve various types of disputes, including merchant-consumer issues, landlord-tenant conflicts, employee-employer disputes and personal injury claims.
Hawthorn said the DRC also gets referrals from the court system regarding cases that are filed in small claims court or if people have a civil case going on or family mediation.
“They will make an appearance in court and the judge will send them to mediation where they can come to our office and they can talk about all the issues and hopefully try to see if they can resolve it without going back to court,” Hawthorn said.
Mediation training is beneficial for the volunteers who come from various types of professions because it enhances their negotiation skills and provides professional career development, Hawthorn said.
The DRC also has juvenile victim offender mediation.
“Youth who have broken the law or committed a crime in the juvenile justice system meet with their parents and a victim and discuss restoration,” Hawthorn said.
According to Hawthorn, the DRC opened 600 cases last year and mediated 400, with 74 percent of those cases ending in an agreement.
Hawthorn said the mediation system saves the county and the court system money which in the long run saves taxpayers’ money.